Last Friday, I sat among my ministry colleagues in a Boundary Training class. This class is a denomination requirement for all clergy, whether full time, part time, associate, etc. The focus is moral ethics — the "to do" and "not to do" list of words, actions and situations put in place to prevent clergy from finding their names intertwined with scandal.
We divided into small groups to speak on particular matters throughout the course. At one point, the way in which we handle tragedy came into the conversation. It was here I had what Oprah calls an “aha” moment. I knew I had to acknowledge the tragedies that took place during my first pastorate. And it wasn’t always going to be by way of the sermon. The next best opportunity was through prayer.
I don’t recall the first tragedy to take place during that pastorate, but I do remember lifting up the families of those whose loved ones were hospitalized and who had died. I remember lifting up first responders and others who put themselves in harm’s way to administer care as well as protection. And then, as seemingly as natural as inhaling and exhaling, I lifted up another group of people — the opposition (they, who some might call, the enemy). I lifted up the family of the person who pulled the trigger and I lifted up the person who pulled the trigger. Healing, peace, mercy, justice, forgiveness were some of the requests made in prayer.
It may not sound like much to you. Yet in that moment, it meant a lot to me. There was something about praying for the other family and the other person that shifted me. In the midst of sharing this with my small group, there was another shift to take place. I spoke to the idea of solidarity when it comes to praying for “the other” or “the marginalized” as I learned during my seminary days. What does that mean exactly?
"The other" or "the marginalized" are we who are viewed as insignificant or less than, by the majority. The irony is, though, the persons who go on these trigger-happy rampages do so to attack those who are already marginalized, the table then turns where they and their families, friends, loved ones become the marginalized, the other, those who are seemingly insignificant.
Nevertheless, as I think about solidarity related to such matters, I am reminded that most times solidarity is about shared feelings and actions toward a common goal. If we’re honest, it’s not so common in everyone’s heart and mind to pray for the person who caused such pain, grief, devastation, etc., nor anyone associated with them. Yet as pastors, ministers and community leaders, our call lends to helping people seen in a different light.
Before the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and the denial of Jesus by Peter, Jesus washed their feet. He also supped with them. Jesus knew full well what the future was to bring, but He didn’t let that stop Him from operating in the solidarity of mercy and love.
We won’t always agree with what is said or done. We won’t always want to be on this side of solidarity — agreement for the sake of mercy and love — for the sake of changing the narrative. Yet, what other way will they know we are Christians, except by our love and our Christlike-ness, by way of solidarity? As a matter of fact, to put our feelings, thoughts, ideas and opinions to the back and put the hearts and minds of all those affected first is the best form of solidarity. It’s the way we love our neighbor (with the love of the Lord), no matter who they are or what they’ve done, as we love ourselves. And well, hopefully, we are loving ourselves. If not, that’s another article to tackle another day.
Rae Karim, formerly chapel director at Christian Theological Seminary, is now pastor at First Christian Church of Honolulu. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.